Spotlight on PLA test pilots, 'Born To Fly' sets standard for Chinese air combat films
Published: Apr 27, 2023 12:58 AM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Fighter jets roar triumphantly as they soar through the sky during the action film Born To Fly. The sonic boom from these aircraft thundering through your chest is likely take your breath away. 

Featuring China's cutting-edge fighter jets such as the J-20 and J-16, and starring Wang Yibo and other top-notch actors, this is the first Chinese film about test pilots in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. 

As of Wednesday, Born To Fly had grossed more than 80 million yuan ($10 million) in pre-sales, the highest pre-sales for a May Day holiday movie in the past five years.

A highly anticipated release, Born To Fly is set to hit the big screen on Friday, much to the excitement of both domestic and international audiences.

Thankfully, the film lives up to audiences' high expectations. Apart from thrilling dogfight scenes showcasing the steady improvement of production quality in China, the movie differs from similar Hollywood offerings that involve plots praising personal heroism. Instead, Born To Fly subtly presents the inner world of test pilots, emphasizing the spiritual inheritance present among China's past and present Air Force generations and giving the movie a more humanistic touch.

The film tells the story of a group of young pilots who bravely face numerous challenges to test pilot China's latest generation of fighter jets. They repeatedly overcome physical and mental limits in the sky, ultimately solving the issue of "heart disease," the engine problem in the new stealth fighter jet. 

Many of the audiences who watched the premiere were amazed at the stunning visual effects presented in this Chinese film.

This is due to the fact that the director of the film, Li Xiaoshi, previously filmed promotional videos for the military, including China's first aircraft carrier Liaoning and China's largest homegrown transport aircraft the Y-20 Kunpeng.

During the filming, the cast effortlessly used technical jargon such as "dual engine failure" and "tailspin," thanks to the crew organizing multiple aviation and test flight lectures and inviting retired test pilots as on-site advisors.

The team's solid professionalism, the first real appearance of China's most advanced fighter jets, and excellent 3D special effects greatly enhance the movie's realism. 

The film not only authentically showcases the charisma of PLA test pilots, but also demonstrates the rapid development of China's aviation industry.

However, the movie is not just a hit with military buffs. General audiences who have seen the film have been truly touched by the fact that almost every story in the film is anchored in realism, while marveling at the development of China's aviation industry as one in which an exceptionally outstanding group of people have spared no effort to break through foreign blockades, and advanced the development of a powerful nation of science and technology.

Undoubtedly, Born To Fly is a patriotic film created by China's modern film industry against the backdrop of continuously catching up with the production standards of top international film industries.

Undoubtedly, as a film in the "air combat" genre, Born To Fly has been called China's answer to US blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, but has been negatively portrayed in Western media reporting. Compared to the commercially successful popcorn movie whose plot does not stand up to scrutiny, Born To Fly is not inferior, and may even become a new benchmark for similar films in China.